Malahat SkyWalk: How to Open an Attraction in the Middle of a Pandemic

Local and regional travelers have taken to Malahat SkyWalk in droves, but it needed to be sensitive to the situation, keep marketing tight and make sure the community were on their side

Reading Time: 3 minutes 28 seconds

“We broke ground in January 2020, just in time for the pandemic,” says Tracy Zeisberger with more than a hint of irony. “Yeah, fantastic.”

Zeisberger is the marketing and sales manager at Malahat SkyWalk on Vancouver Island. The 2,000-foot-long (600-meter), 105-foot-high (32-meter) spiral SkyWalk was built through the first year of Covid and opened on July 15, 2021, bringing a new attraction to Canada’s Pacific Coast.

Despite the unfortunate timing, there were far more positives. “It gave everybody something to do,” Zeisberger added. “It created an incredible amount of employment for Vancouver Island. We employed well over 100 people during the pandemic.”

Arival 360 | SAN DIEGO 2024

30 September – 3 October 2024

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for solutions-focused In-Destination Experience
creators and sellers

Save up to $660 with the Spring Savings ticket

Learn More

Vancouver Island is known for its outdoor activities — fishing, hiking, and whale watching, among others — the Butchart Gardens, and its beautiful villages. Before the pandemic hit, the provincial government of British Colombia had been running ad campaigns to keep increasing visitor numbers.

“There was a real need for more tourism infrastructure here,” Zeisberger says. “On Vancouver Island you could go to the garden, you could do whale watching. We are surrounded by mountains, ocean and beautiful, lush forests. But there was a real need for additional infrastructure to continue to expand on the tourism that had been continuing to grow.”

And so the Malahat SkyWalk on the edge of the Salish Sea, 35 minutes north of Victoria, was born. 

The attraction is fully accessible. The ramp never goes above a 5% gradient — meaning for every 100 feet (30 meters) walked horizontally, there is a climb of 5 feet (1.5 meters) — and is completely wheel friendly. The walk from start to finish is 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers) and full of rest stops for those with mobility issues. 

The only problem is for those with a fear of heights. At the top, a net is suspended onto which thrill-seekers can walk, or crawl, above the forest canopy. Those who don’t want to walk back can take a 164-foot (50-meter) slide to the bottom.

Keeping marketing sensitive and tight

Malahat SkyWalk: How to Open an Attraction in the Middle of a Pandemic Ben Finch Arival
Thrill-seekers can walk above the forest canopy on suspended netting — Hamish Hamilton / Malahat SkyWalk

Covid brought with it some supply-chain issues during construction, but luckily all of the lumber had been purchased before prices spiked. Watching what was happening to the industry as the project progressed was perhaps more difficult.

“From an emotional point of view, as members of a massive industry that was going through a terrible time, for us it was a real challenge to figure out,” Zeisberger says.

“Initially, we kept our story quiet. People would say: ‘This is hurting you.’ But it was kind of intentional. Part of it was that you don’t want to let everything out of the bag before you’re open. But it was also being sensitive to where we were at, both as a world and as an industry.”

When it came time to open, the SkyWalk kept their marketing tight and only targeted those who lived within two-hours travel away. Some 70% of the province had been vaccinated and cross-provincial travel was possible again, but cross-border travel from the U.S. was not. 

“We were very blessed”

Malahat SkyWalk: How to Open an Attraction in the Middle of a Pandemic Ben Finch Arival
“We feel like we did the right things because they’ve really embraced us,Zeisberger said — Hamish Hamilton / Malahat SkyWalk

“At that time here in Canada — mid-July — we were all feeling pretty optimistic,” Zeisberger says. “The Delta variant hadn’t really hit us at that time. So we’re like: ‘Oh this is great.’ I mean we were kind of living the life of Riley compared to the previous July.

“People were ready and they came in droves. We were very blessed in our local support.”

While people do visit from Toronto, the SkyWalk sold more than 1,000 annual passes, at $69 (CAD$87.00) for an adult, to locals before opening and people visit for their daily walk. 

“It still surprises me,” Zeisberger says. “That spoke volumes to us — that our community was going to support us in that way. 

“Like most places, people on Vancouver Island can be sensitive to what’s being built — especially when you live in a place like this where there’s not a ton of infrastructure. People live here for that reason so they’re quite protective.

“We felt blessed. We feel like we did the right things because they’ve really embraced us. We’re really proud of that.”

GET ON THE LIST!

Sign up to receive insights tailored for the in-destination industry as well as updates on Arival.

Sign Up
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Trending

already a member?

Lost your password?

NEED TO REGISTER?

Become an Arival Insider
THE ARIVAL INSIDER PRO ACCESS MEMBERSHIP; YOU GET ALL THIS TO HELP YOU ADVANCE YOUR BUSINESS.

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Arival.guides
Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021.

Arival.travel articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview
ARIVAL CODE OF CONDUCT​
CONFERENCES AND COMMUNITY SPACES​

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].